Russia, Syria Call on 'Illegal' U.S. Forces to Leave Syria

Joint statement also calls to allow evacuation of refugee camp in southeast; Netanyahu in Moscow for talks with Putin

FILE PHOTO: Syrian schoolchildren walk as U.S. troops patrol near Turkish border in Hasakah, Syria November 4, 2018.
\ Rodi Said/ REUTERS

Russia and Syria issued a joint statement on Wednesday calling on U.S. forces to leave Syria and to allow people inside a refugee camp in the southeast of the country to be evacuated by Russian and Syrian forces.

The statement, released by Russia's Ministry of Defense, said Russian and Syrian forces had prepared buses to relocate refugees at the camp in the Rubkan area and would guarantee them safe passage so they could start new lives. 

"We also call on the United States, whose military units are on Syrian territory illegally, to leave the country," the joint statement read. 

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The United States said earlier this month it would leave about 400 U.S. troops split between two different regions of Syria, a reversal by President Donald Trump that could pave the way for U.S. allies to keep troops in Syria. 

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders are expected to focus on regional affairs, the situation in Syria and the strengthening of the security coordination. It is the first time the two leaders meet in Moscow since the downing of the Russian spy plane in Syria in September 2018.

Netanyahu cut his Moscow trip short and will return Wednesday. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is expected to publish his decision this week on whether to file charges against Netanyahu. 

Last week, Netanyahu postponed his Moscow visit as he orchestrated a far-right political merger to counter the new alliance between Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. The joint far-right ticket could pave the way into the Knesset for the Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit.